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What Should I Consider When Buying a Tripod?

Diana Bocco
Updated May 23, 2024
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The first step in deciding which tripod to buy is to analyze where and how you are going to use it. While most tripods come with adjustable feet that can be used on any hard surface, only a few also have a spike for soft ground. If you're planning on taking outdoor photographs, it may be worth it to spend the extra money for a tripod that has both features.

The next thing to consider in a tripod is the type of head. Cheaper tripods usually have a fixed head, while professional tripods come with a replaceable head that can accommodate different cameras and be tilted side to side and up and down. Ball heads use a ball-and-socket joint that moves softly in a circular motion.

Size and weight become important when a tripod is used for outdoor photography and needs to be carted around. A good tripod should reach at least to eye level, but still fold down to a size that's easy to carry and store. When it comes to weight, heavier tripods with tubular or closed section legs tend to be more stable, while lightweight tripods have the advantage of portability, but tend to perform poorly on uneven terrain. A new generation of tripods are now made of carbon fiber, which is lightweight but considerably more expensive than the traditional aluminum tripods. A good quality tripod averages eight pounds.

Another important feature to look for in a tripod is a locking mechanism. This consists of a simple switch that locks the legs in place so there is no risk of the tripod collapsing in the middle of a photo session. A similar locking switch, called a quick release fitting, is sometimes attached to the camera and used to lock it into the tripod head.

The centerpost of the tripod is available in smooth and geared options. A smooth centerpost can be lowered or raised manually, while a geared centerpost can be extended by using a small crank on the side. While there are no major differences between the types of centerposts, the geared post can be raised with just one hand, a definitive advantage when time is of the essence.

Prices for a tripod vary depending on many of the factors mentioned above. A simple tripod for amateur photography can be bought for under 100 US dollars (USD). The Gitzo 1325 tripod, a preferred choice among nature photographers, runs about 530 USD.

Sports n' Hobbies is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Diana Bocco
By Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco, a versatile writer with a distinct voice, creates compelling long-form and short-form content for various businesses. With a data-focused approach and a talent for sharing engaging stories, Diana’s written work gets noticed and drives results.
Discussion Comments
By anon314795 — On Jan 20, 2013

When purchasing a tripod for wildlife or action photography, a ball head is a must. A pan head does not move fluidly and can limit your response time to say a bird taking off and flying.

Weight is key. Most camera bodies weigh one to two pounds and take on a telephoto lens at another two-plus pounds depending on the size. If you are shooting subjects that more often require the tripod to be at a 30-70 percent angle, you will need to have a tripod that can support at least double your equipment's weight or the camera will sag and you will have to adjust accordingly.

By Sara007 — On May 17, 2011

If you want a really nifty tripod look into getting an octopus one. They are tripods that come with shorter, bendable legs and you can use them to secure your camera to things like trees and fences. They are fairly light and are great for taking unique pictures.

I looked at them recently, and while they used to be only available for small cameras, you can now get ones that will hold even larger SLR cameras.

Small ones start about $25USD and go up from there depending on size and material.

I recommend you buy one from a reputable camera store, as the cheap ones online can break easily. You don't want a leg to snap off your tripod when your camera is clinging to a fence.

By popcorn — On May 14, 2011

For those who have photography as their hobby, a tripod is a great addition to your tools. I would suggest getting one, as they are invaluable for night shots and group photos.

I prefer tripods that come with their own carrying case. A decent tripod is telescopic and can be made smaller. If you find one that becomes short enough, you be slung over your back and is easily carried.

As a word of warning, you should be very careful with the adjustable feet if you have this option. Don't jerk them too hard or push down on them to make them secure, they can break easily.

Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco, a versatile writer with a distinct voice, creates compelling long-form and short-form content for various...
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